Am I Wrong?

by Ruth
(Mississippi)

I have a very small congregation that has taken me over the edge of burnout. These few people call me several times a day for no reason whatsoever, except that they have nothing else to do. I went on vacation in June and they called me at least once a day while I was gone even though I told them before I left that I would be unavailable. They call me to fax things for them, ask me how to cook things (knowing I'm no Martha Stewart), ask me to call their attorney because they can't get ahold of him and somehow they think I can. I have, out of a health necessity informed them that I am taking these two weeks off, however they have again called every day. Am I wrong to want to tell them to buzz off and leave me alone? Am I wrong to think that I should have at least one day without one of their insistent, unneccesary calls?

Comments for Am I Wrong?

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Some thoughts
by: Anonymous

Wow what a challenge!!! First of all as others have suggested you need to put boundaries in place. Explain that while you love them in Christ you have to spend time recharging and spending time with your family, as such you will be uncontactable on your days off. You could appoint someone else to do some pastoral care should there be an emergency.

I would definitely go away and leave your church phone at home and not answer calls. Tell them you will be happy to catch up with them on other days should they need require some assistance.

But I agree with the others the congregation needs to grow up and learn to take control of their own lives and mature in Christ. This won't happen overnight but I would really seek the Lord about how you can gently but lovingly encourage the people to be more independent in their walk with Christ.

Give them small challenges, if the time is right give people some responsibility and see how they go. They may surprise you! But most of all take care of yourself, its not selfish to do so and it will help you to be able to pastor more effectively and stop burnout. Best of luck!!! and God Bless

Am I Wrong
by: Dr. Shirley R. Brown

Greetings Ruth,

You are not wrong. You are called to pastor not be their mother. You have to have time alone and rest ..Jesus did. the ministry won't grow or reach others if you don't have time alone...your body needs to regenerate , you need to hear from God. you need to have fun. We as believers need to learn to have more of that. I believe every pastor should take some type of sabbatical at least ever six weeks. I have learned to do the same thing , we started small now we are about at 125 and I also have a personal christian counseling business, I was right were you are and just had to stop and remember that God called me to this and I had to run the race to the end under His strength and not my strength. So whether people liked me or not, I had to explain to them I needed time to pray for them and hear from God. Now it is working a lot better.

You deserve respect and boundaries
by: Anonymous

Make some boundaries with these people. Demand respect and privacy. Be prepared for people being angry or hurt.

Wow!
by: Paddy Venner

Hey Ruth - sounds like the sort of church that would drive me crackers if I let them - but that's just the thing . I think you're letting them! Why are you answering the phone? On my day off I leave my blackberry at home and let the landline go to answerphone. You are not loving the people by facilitating their immaturity - hey I'm not having ago at you by the way - I'm typing this with a large grin on my fine South African face - but we get the churches we deserve. My sons would never grow if I was at their beck and call for every little situation. If we constantly take calls about some of the trivial things you mentioned, then we're not running a church but a nappy-changing service. Just stop. If people leave then they are showing you their heart and you don't want them. You are a five-fold gift ministry, not their secretary - do some teaching on that, and switch the phone OFF lol!!

You Are Not Wrong
by: Pastor R

Thank you for sharing your heart. The sensitivity you have expressed is one where all must realize your role as Pastor. It seems you want to do your best for God by serving the needs of people at your best. However, you can not be your best without receiving the proper rest, spending quality time with family, and most of all, having time with/for yourself. You are not wrong, but it sounds like you are burdened.
May I suggest, educate your congregation to depend on themselves, and one another, by setting hours where you receive phone calls, days where you receive visits, and times of the day where you are unavailable. Prepare them with bulletin announcements, a group email, and verbal announcements from the clerk or another church leader that these boundaries will go into effect on ??/??/??. There will be a few to push the envelope, but if you stand firm, they will help spread the word to the rest. I will be praying for you. Be encouraged.

No Answer
by: Pastor Gene

We must set the boundaries for people they will go as far as you allow them to. My suggestion; turn off the phone and tell your flock why, be honest, You are a man with a family and they will destroy you and your ministry if you allow it.

Suggestions
by: Anonymous

I read this and have to ask, "Are these people for real?" Obviously there is a level of dependence that verges on dysfunction. My recommendation would be that you not respond to their perceived needs by problem solving for them when you are in the office and not on holidays. Teach them how to answer their own questions and stand on their own two feet. Sounds like maybe you are "helping" them too much and they have grown unable to independently meet their own needs or develop a network for problem solving. When you take a necessary break, communicate to your congregation who the contact person is, give your phone number only to one person. Make sure that person understands what an emergency is and ask them to pray for or steer the needy person in the right direction, or at the very least communicate to the congregation member that the issue can wait until you return. Guard your time of rest, or you will be no good to anyone when you return.

You're Not Wrong
by: Anonymous

No, you are not wrong to want some space and time away. My recommendation - let the phone calls go to voice mail and return them when you get back from vacation. You should not feel guilty about not answering right away. Time off for the pastor is good for the pastor AND for the congregation.

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